Fitbit Sense review: An ambitious smartwatch that’s getting better with time

Fitbit Sense review: An ambitious smartwatch that’s getting better with time


  • At all times-on display is brilliant and straightforward to see
  • Detailed sleep evaluation
  • ECG is simple to make use of
  • Constructed-in GPS
  • Google Assistant is flexible

Do not Like

  • Stress monitoring does not inform you a lot but
  • No onboard music storage
  • Not as responsive or quick as different smartwatches

The Fitbit Sense provides an entire slew of sensors to the Fitbit lineup to trace every thing from stress to blood oxygen ranges, temperature, sleep and even has an FDA-cleared electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). On high of all that, the $329 (£299, AU$499) Sense additionally doubles as a daily smartwatch and fitness tracker. And whereas the Sense nonetheless has health at its core, it desires to be your every day wellness coach now, too.

Fitbit is attempting to bridge the hole between fitness and wellness with the Sense, a zone most wearables had been already navigating even earlier than the present COVID-19 well being disaster. The Apple Watch has been leaning to wellness and well being over the previous couple of years, with a brand new blood oxygen function, ECG app and fall detection function. Samsung’s newer Galaxy Watches embrace these metrics, in addition to a stress take a look at of its personal, whereas the Oura ring additionally collects temperature information just like the Sense. The top objective for many of those is that each one this information might sometime assist establish the onset ailments earlier than the person experiences any signs. However within the meantime all these charts, numbers and scores from the Sense can really feel overwhelming, particularly for somebody with no medical coaching.

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Fitbit Sense: A puzzle of knowledge out of your wrist


After two months with the Sense, we have now combined emotions about it. Briefly, if you need a well being machine to observe your every day stats, and likewise wished ECG on a Fitbit, that is your watch. However in any other case, the lower-priced Fitbit Versa 3 (which has the identical common options of the Sense, with out ECG and stress sensing) can be a lot.

CNET’s Lexy Savvides and Scott Stein each wore the Fitbit Sense for this evaluation.

A well-recognized design when you’re upgrading your Fitbit

The Sense has an identical design to the Versa, besides with a stainless-steel edge across the sq. watch face as a substitute of aluminum and a bunch of latest sensors inside, which does make it a tiny bit thicker. Together with the touchscreen, you work together with the Sense via an indented haptic facet button, which may do every thing from launching Alexa (or the Google Assistant) to beginning a exercise. It feels extra comfy than the Versa 2, particularly throughout exercises and at bedtime, due to its extra rounded end. These fiddly toggles used to modify out straps on earlier Fitbits are gone, thank goodness. They have been changed with fast launch buttons to make swapping bands out loads simpler on the Sense. 


Lexy Savvides/CNET

The Fitbit Sense additionally has a quicker processor than the Versa 2, which makes interactions with the watch really feel snappier, however we nonetheless observed some lag when opening apps, elevating the watch to wake the display or swiping as much as see every day stats. It additionally takes about 30 seconds to sync new watch faces like with earlier Fitbits.

What it has improved is its charging station. As an alternative of the alligator-style clips from earlier Fitbits, the Sense makes use of a brand new magnetic charger that simply attaches to the again of the watch. 

The ECG function is simple to make use of

The Sense is the primary Fitbit to incorporate an onboard ECG app able to producing a single-lead electrocardiogram learn in 30 seconds. Fitbit says that the ECG on the watch will even display for doable arrhythmias that would point out atrial fibrillation, or aFib, however it may well’t detect coronary heart assaults or different cardiac situations. It not too long ago obtained FDA clearance within the US and it is now out there to be used within the US, some European nations and Hong Kong. You may find a full list here.

To take an ECG, you first have to undergo a fast Coronary heart Rhythm Evaluation briefing within the Fitbit app (go to Uncover > Assessments & Reviews). As soon as full, the ECG app ought to seem on the Sense. Sit down and place your thumb and index finger on reverse corners of the watch and you will see considered one of three outcomes after your scan is full, relying on the guts rhythm: regular sinus, indicators of atrial fibrillation or inconclusive. You may also evaluation the ends in the Fitbit app and share along with your physician.


Lexy Savvides/CNET

Samsung has obtained an identical clearance for the function on its two newer Galaxy Watches, whereas Apple’s ECG app has been energetic on the Apple Watch for the reason that firm launched the Collection four in 2018. It additionally notifies you of irregular coronary heart rhythms indicative of aFib, plus excessive and low coronary heart price alerts, as does the Sense. The ECG and coronary heart price notifications work in an identical method between the Sense and Apple Watch, though to take an ECG on the Apple Watch you place one finger on the digital crown quite than the 2 fingers on the rim of the Sense.

Stress monitoring is simply useful when you already know learn how to handle it

Whereas the Sense is not the primary wearable machine to trace stress, its technique of retrieving this info is exclusive. Quite than specializing in coronary heart price like Samsung’s Galaxy Watches, the Sense additionally makes use of sweat information from its new electrodermal exercise, or EDA sensor to find out stress ranges. To measure your ranges, you place the palm of your reverse hand over the chrome steel rim on the highest of the watch. The palm’s contact on the watch’s metallic rim completes a circuit, then makes use of the EDA sensor to measure doable sweat-triggered stress markers. Your entire course of takes two minutes.

It is slightly bizarre at first as a result of you possibly can’t see something on the display whilst you’re doing the scan, however as soon as it is full, you will obtain a vibration. You may also log how you’re feeling on the finish of the take a look at, see your EDA responses and test in case your coronary heart price went up or down. Fitbit gives guided audio meditation classes for Fitbit Premium customers to pair with the EDA scan, though we did not discover them significantly useful or enjoyable.

The stress outcomes to date have been imprecise. Considered one of Scott’s preliminary readings confirmed just a few EDA moments, that are these sweat-triggered incidents. However for probably the most half he appeared to be stress-free, in accordance with the Sense. Contemplating he wore the Sense all through a pandemic with two babies at house and through one of many busiest work weeks of the yr, this studying didn’t replicate the truth he skilled. The app additionally did not appear to offer any significant context as to why he skilled these early incidents or learn how to enhance on his outcomes. Lexy had comparable problem deciphering the EDA moments, of which she had 17 throughout one significantly aggravating day on deadline. The Fitbit gave no indication as as to whether this was a standard quantity or trigger for concern. 


After every EDA scan you possibly can see your coronary heart price, what number of EDA responses had been measured, then replicate on how you’re feeling, starting from “very pressured” to “calm.”

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Fitbit does, nevertheless, present a brand new Stress Administration rating at the start of every day that takes under consideration sleep, bodily exercise and stress to offer you a “the way you’re doing” quantity. It is just like the daytime equal of the Sleep Rating from earlier Fitbits. This information may very well be useful for restoration: For instance, when you’ve got a decrease rating you would possibly need to deal with getting extra restorative sleep quite than pushing your self on a exercise. 


The every day stress rating within the Fitbit app.

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

However the Stress Administration readings proper now aren’t significantly user-friendly and it may well take just a few days for them to indicate up after you first begin sporting the Sense. Lexy’s scores assorted from 78 to 92, normally averaging within the 80s. The next Stress Administration rating means issues are typically good. However even on days when her rating managed to tip into the 90s, it did not essentially correlate with the quantity of stress she felt. The Fitbit app does not present personalised suggestions that will help you interpret or enhance your rating so determining what to do with it may be a little bit of a thriller. However a month or so after the Sense launched, we observed a immediate seem within the app saying the best way the Stress Administration rating is calculated has been improved. We’ll replace this evaluation if we discover any vital variations from our preliminary testing.

You do not want a Fitbit Premium account to entry a lot of this information, however you will want one to get the additional meditation options, insights from the stress sensor, further stats about your sleeping coronary heart price and minute-by-minute pores and skin temperature variations throughout sleep. Fitbit is making extra well being information, reminiscent of coronary heart price variability and SpO2 developments over time, out there to everybody with a appropriate machine within the coming months. However for that different information you will have to pay $10 a month for a premium subscription, which is changing into an essential a part of the Fitbit expertise. 

Learn extra: How the Fitbit Sense tracks stress.

SpO2 monitoring solely runs whilst you sleep

The Fitbit Sense does not take SpO2 or blood oxygen readings on demand like Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3 or the Apple Watch Collection 6. As an alternative, it measures blood oxygen ranges whilst you sleep. The Collection 6 additionally measures SpO2 ranges at evening.

All that you must do to measure your SpO2 whilst you sleep is to put on it to mattress. Within the morning, you possibly can test your SpO2 degree within the Fitbit app. You will additionally have the ability to see the graph of your blood oxygen variations. (There aren’t any particular numbers, simply a sign of whether or not your oxygen variation is excessive or low.)

Be aware that at launch, the Sense required you to pick out a particular SpO2 watch face earlier than you went to mattress in an effort to observe SpO2. Your degree would then seem on the watch face about 45 minutes to an hour after waking. In the event you choose to see the blood oxygen degree in your wrist as a substitute of via the app, you possibly can nonetheless choose the SpO2 watch face earlier than you go to mattress. Fitbit says there will likely be seven extra SpO2 watch faces out there within the app gallery by the tip of the yr.

As with the stress rating, it is tough to know what to do along with your SpO2 studying until you are a medical skilled. And it is not doable to check the sensor in opposition to a pulse oximeter, a tool medical doctors use to measure blood oxygen ranges out of your fingertip, because the Sense’s SpO2 readings are taken at evening and averaged out.


Scott Stein/CNET

It is also value noting that SpO2 can also be out there on the Versa 2 (with the particular watch face) and the Versa three which works in the identical method because it does on the Sense, so that you need not choose the SpO2 watch face earlier than retiring. 

Sleep monitoring is nice on the Sense and it really works in just about the identical method as earlier Fitbits. It provides you an in depth breakdown in your phases of sleep and a sleep rating every morning.

Temperature monitoring on the Sense can also be solely at evening

Temperature monitoring on the Sense is just like SpO2 in that it does not present a measurement on demand, however quite exhibits whether or not you’ve got deviated out of your baseline in a every day graph. Evidently, it will not exchange your thermometer any time quickly. You will have to log about three nights of sleep for the Sense to ascertain a baseline from which to go by. Just like the Oura ring, which we have additionally been testing for just a few months, it is a probably useful strategy to get an concept of your temperature fluctuations over time and point out doable fevers earlier than you would possibly pay attention to them.

Sadly (or fortuitously), we’ve not been sick within the interval the place we have been monitoring our temperatures and have not skilled any vital variances from the baseline to report on. Fitbit is promising that the Sense will even replicate temperature variations resulting from menstrual cycles, and it did appear to indicate a dip in Lexy’s pores and skin temperature earlier than the beginning of a cycle. Basal physique temperature is usually utilized by girls to foretell fertility, as ovulation typically causes a slight improve in temperature, or a dip in temperature earlier than a interval. Like different Fitbits, the Sense has cycle monitoring which you’ll be able to log within the app, or see the place you might be in your cycle on the watch.


Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Health monitoring: Not a lot has modified

One of many downsides of Fitbits that launched after the Ionic in 2017 was lack of onboard GPS. Beginning with the Charge 4 earlier this yr, Fitbit has lastly introduced again GPS so you do not have to take your cellphone with you on an outside run or journey to trace your route. It takes round 10 seconds to accumulate a lock while you begin an outside exercise, with or with out your cellphone close by.


The Sense can present you what coronary heart price zone you are in and encourage you to push tougher (or again off).

Lexy Savvides/CNET

In the event you’ve used another Fitbit in recent times, the remainder of the health monitoring options on the Sense will appear acquainted. You will nonetheless have the ability to observe your steps, begin a goal-based exercise, see your coronary heart price zone and keep watch over energy burned. What’s new is the addition of Lively Zone Minutes, which we first noticed within the Charge 4. This makes use of your age and resting coronary heart price to indicate you the way onerous you labored out throughout an exercise. You will additionally obtain real-time alerts while you’ve modified zones, which will help you’re taking motion throughout your exercise, whether or not that is pushing your self a bit extra or easing off relying in your objectives. For Lexy, it was most useful throughout an outside run so she knew when to go a bit quicker (normally, that is on a regular basis).

Regardless of the Sense having the identical common health options, it has its benefits in a exercise. The display is brighter than the Versa and earlier Fitbit trackers, so it is comparatively simple to see in daylight so long as you make sure the brightness is about to most. It is also comfy to put on, and because of its flat profile it does not get in the best way even while you’re working up a sweat.

We in contrast the Sense in opposition to a chest strap to check coronary heart price monitoring accuracy. Whereas it matched up pretty persistently to the strap for resting coronary heart price, it took a minimum of 5 to 10 seconds to catch as much as the strap throughout a exercise when coronary heart price spiked (like when going from a mild jog to a full dash).


Lexy Savvides/CNET

Battery life is sweet, however not as robust as different Fitbits

With the always-on show energetic, two 30-minute exercises, just a few stress measurements and a full evening of sleep monitoring, the Sense met the two-day battery life declare. Turning off that always-on show and simply utilizing increase to wake helped increase the battery to round four.5 days between expenses. That mentioned, out of doors exercises appear to be a ache level for the battery. Lexy observed after a very strenuous 2.5 hour out of doors bike journey, the battery dipped virtually 50%.

Extra smartwatch options are being added over time

The Sense works with Android and iOS and the expertise is constant throughout ecosystems, excluding not with the ability to reply to textual content messages from the watch while you’re on iOS. There is a microphone and speaker onboard so now you can take fast calls out of your wrist along with your cellphone close by. You may also change the decision backwards and forwards between your cellphone and the watch, which is a pleasant contact. The speaker sounds effective for a fast name, however we would not need to use it for any prolonged conversations. When you have an Android cellphone, you will additionally have the ability to use dictation or voice-to-text to reply to messages. 

Google Assistant on the Sense has rolled out with the replace to Fitbit OS 5.1 and works throughout Android and iOS. When you hyperlink your Google account and comply with share info between the Fitbit app and the Assistant, you possibly can ask the Assistant to do every thing from present your sleep rating, or begin a particular exercise like a run. It is responsive and much more useful than the gradual and restricted Alexa performance, which can also be out there on the Sense. You may’t, nevertheless, ship textual content messages or begin a name along with your voice utilizing the Google Assistant but.


Lexy Savvides/CNET

You may retailer songs for offline listening from Pandora or Deezer when you’ve got a premium subscription, however the Sense will solely function a distant management for Spotify. 

You may’t retailer your personal music on the Sense, nevertheless, which is a giant draw back when you wish to hearken to songs throughout a exercise and do not need to take your cellphone with you. 

A superb, however not nice smartwatch for the value

The Fitbit Sense hits the mark in some ways: It has robust battery administration, wonderful sleep monitoring and an array of latest sensors that may very well be useful to some folks. It feels prefer it’s attempting to do some an excessive amount of without delay, with options like stress administration seeming extra complicated than useful. That mentioned, within the months since its launch, Fitbit has added new options together with computerized SpO2 monitoring at evening, Google Assistant help and the flexibility to take calls out of your wrist that has improved the general expertise.

However until you want an ECG and the stress tracker, you is perhaps higher off with a extra fundamental and succesful Fitbit Versa three, which has most of the similar options because the Sense. That method you will avoid wasting and anticipate Fitbit to iron out the kinks for the subsequent era of Sense.

The data contained on this article is for academic and informational functions solely and isn’t meant as well being or medical recommendation. At all times seek the advice of a doctor or different certified well being supplier concerning any questions you could have a few medical situation or well being targets.

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